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Apex court stays Madras High Court order on bar poll

New Delhi, May 24 (Calcutta Tube) The Supreme Court Monday stayed the Madras High Court’s directions related to elections to the high court’s Advocate Association (MHAA) and wondered how could there be discrimination in allowing lawyers exercise their right to vote.

Under the amended provisions approved by the Madras High Court only those MHAA members could be allowed to vote who have two years of practice at the high court.

Besides this, to be eligible to contest the elections a lawyer needs to be a member of the association for a particular duration. The duration of membership of a contesting candidate is different for different posts of the MHAA.

The vacation bench of the Supreme Court of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice C.K. Prasad asked why the high court was discriminating. Justice Singhvi asked: ‘Why are you discriminating?’.

‘What is the justification of the high court taking over the functioning of the bar association,’ Justice Singhvi asked while taking note of a petition questioning the high court directions.

‘We will like to hear the matter,’ he added.

The high court in its March 16, 2010, order said that lawyers practicing in the high court would be eligible to vote in the MHAA election only after completing two years of practice.

Under the new rules enforced by the high court, advocates who are members of the MHAA but are practicing in subordinate courts were not eligible to vote.

Besides, a member should be in the continuous membership of the association for 12 years to be eligible to contest election for the post of the president, the high court ruled.

Similarly, it is 10 years continuous membership for the vice-president, eight years for the post of secretary, seven years for treasurer and librarian, and three years to contest for the executive committee. Besides, the duration of membership, the member should be eligible to vote to contest election.

Appearing for the petitioner Sudha, senior counsel Ratnakar Dash said that fixing duration for contesting election and making two years’ practice mandatory for vote in the elections is discriminatory.

He said that it was not in the jurisdiction of the high court to frame MHAA laws. He said it was the prerogative of the MHAA to frame and amend its rules.

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